Editor’s Letter: In a Dream with Jessica Cruel

Allure editorinchief Jessica Cruel wearing a blue dress and glasses smiling at the camera in front of a tan backdropPhotographed by Makeda Sandford

"You are born with beauty, but there are some things you can only gain through living: intelligence, poise, determination." This line is from the first editor's letter I ever wrote. I was a high school senior and had created a mini-magazine called ONYX, for Black teens. (I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge that I knew nothing about life at the age of 18, but it all sounded very grown-up at the time.) Looking at that publication and now at this one, I want a lot of the same things for Allure that I wanted for ONYX.

Back then, I craved a platform where the inspiring people I saw in my community could share their stories (the makeup artist at my local photo studio made a cameo, and my very stylish friends posed in a local boutique). I wanted to pass along thoughtful, independent advice that would make women feel more confident in their beauty choices, even as society saddled them with impossible standards and overwhelming product marketing (and this was before social media created an endless reel of unattainable #inspo; the need for realism has never been more acute than it is today). Beyond traditional ideas of beauty, I also longed to see images of models with crooked teeth and wide smiles, bald heads and dazzling skin, undefined Afros and piercing eyes. I longed for a magazine that would mirror the world around me. 

A photo of the ONYX magazine with editor and chief Jessica Cruel on the cover wearing a red dress and heels

Flashback to my first editor-in-chief job: I was also the magazine founder, staff writer…and cover star!

Courtesy of Jessica Cruel 

When I entered this industry, people like those in my Georgia hometown — people like me — rarely graced the pages of glossy publications. As a young Black woman with natural hair and a curvy figure, I felt both conspicuous and invisible when I entered a room.

In the past decade, though, through the work of so many editors — including my predecessors Linda Wells and Michelle Lee — Allure has expanded its scope to feature little girls getting cornrows, drag queens doing makeup tutorials, and K-pop stars sharing skin-care secrets. On the cover of this issue, Bad Bunny, a Puerto Rican performer who loves nail art and hip-hop (two things I never thought would coexist), proudly wears a durag and cries delicate crystal tears.

In my two years at Allure — as features director, then content director, now editor in chief — I have gotten to nurture the seed that started with ONYX by putting a spotlight on the minority communities that are often incubators for mainstream trends. So know this: No matter who you are, how you look, or what type of beauty you're into, Allure wants to know your story. We're going to do our best to be a megaphone for your voice.

Reading that first editor's letter again today, I realize that even in my naivete I was hitting on some truth. Allure can't define beauty because each person is born with a unique element that makes them shine, a certain something that can't be replicated. But what we can do is highlight diverse experiences and perspectives to inspire each of you to see the world from a different point of view—and perhaps to try something you never considered. As it has for the past 30 years, Allure, the beauty expert, will continue to be a source of scientific truth, a place to discover up-and-coming artists, a beauty-aisle shopping guide, and an amplifier for cultural conversations. 

From ONYX to Allure, my dream publication is part aspiration and part celebration of all the beautiful imperfections in our world.

Lead image photographed by Makeda Sandford. Makeup by Maya Rene.

This story originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of Allure. Learn how to subscribe here.

Editor’s Letter: In a Dream with Jessica Cruel

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